The first time I’d talked to him was in a dream, when we’d shaken hands and introduced ourselves, and I hadn’t been quaking like a dead leaf in a gale. I’d seen him many times in the college campus, laughing with his buddies, a twinkle in his eyes as he looked in my direction, while I looked down, unable to meet his gaze. I desperately wanted to talk to him. There was something very, very intimidating about him, and I knew I just had to know him.
So I did. I summoned all the strength that flickered in me, and talked to him one day. To me, that day marked the beginning of the nine most beautiful years of my life. Till then, I’d only existed, with my huge nerd glasses and braided hair making me another face in the crowd, no one special. But he showed me how to live. My best friend. Rahul.
I know I started off talking about all the tension and the locking eyes frenzy that comes with having a crush on someone. But when we got to know each other, we became best friends, and my feelings for him took a backseat to our friendship. He was charismatic and charming, and everyone in our college knew him, mainly for three things-His good looks, which he used rather cleverly to cakewalk his way into the hearts of men and women alike; his smartness, which he proved through his grades as well as the way he spoke; and his lust for adventure. He was absolutely insane about bike racing, and there was nothing I could do to quench his thirst for that adrenaline rush.
Rahul was undoubtedly a ladies’ man. Something I hated very much, but never told anyone about it, especially him, because I didn’t want him to know. I couldn’t hold a candle to the women he dated, not when I was a matchstick figure with jutting elbows and a tomboyish appearance. I didn’t wear seven layers of make-up like they did, and I doubt I could have worn those heels and not tripped at least once. So I didn’t even try. It was obvious that Rahul liked his biker babes, and not bookish, antiquarian little me. So I assumed the next best role after girlfriend– Best friend.
The one event that I would never forget in my entire life, is prom night. I was supposed to go with my Bio lab partner, but he called sick in the last minute, and I had no date. I’d felt so humiliated, as I lay on my couch, holding tissue boxes in my hand and crying my heart out. I called Rahul because I just had to tell someone about it, and the next minute, he was at my door, wearing a tux and holding a bouquet of roses in his hand. I think he’d already asked someone else out for prom, but I was too caught up in my dilemma to have asked that day. Prom, to this day, has never been as enchanting and magical as that. Because he was always there for me, my best friend. He put me first, and made sure I had everything I ever wanted, everything I could ever want. I still remember how he held me as I cried in his arms when my boyfriend broke up with me. He told me that he was a jerk for letting me go, but I don’t think I was listening to half of what he said. Because all I could do was count the colours in his eyes and wonder what it would be like to be his girl. I was truly mesmerized.
Six years have passed now, and I’m holding a letter in my hands, addressed to…me. It looks very similar to the letters I have stacked inside my cupboard, all written to Rahul, but never sent. I’m twenty-seven now, and live alone in a small apartment that my mom calls a makeshift excuse for a home. But I like it here, because it’s closer to my job, and closer to Rahul’s native place, where he spent his childhood making mud pies and riding bicycles.
The letter came this afternoon, and the tears have started coming the moment I opened it. I think I’d know his handwriting anywhere, especially the way he jots his i’s and forgets to dot his j’s. It used to irritate me when we were in college, but now it’s the only thing that’s holding me together-The sweet memories.
I look down slowly, and forget to wipe my tears as I begin to read.
THREE THINGS ABOUT YOU
As I’m writing this, I finally begin to realize the meaning of the word fear. I thought it had never been in my blood, but now I know. Now I know when I confess.
I don’t know where to start. I think I’ll begin from nine years ago.
The first time I saw you, walking in between classes, I hated you. I really, really hated you. You were the kind of person I despised a lot, the nerd who was always so stuck up and such a goody-two-shoes. Little Miss Perfect. I had no intention of getting to know you at all. I think you realized that I was staring at you, so I quickly turned, and walked away, wondering what you’d look like without those tortoise shell glasses covering half your face. But I think fate had a different way of thinking things through. Because you came and talked to me the very next day.
That was when I realised three things about you-You were smart, funny, and liked to have fun. To be frank, I was surprised. I didn’t expect that from someone like you. To me, people who turned to books all the time were boring and predictable. They were mostly unfriendly, and didn’t know doodle-dee squat about enjoying life. But there was a different side to you, a side that was fresh and spontaneous, and definitely not boring like I suspected. You, Maya, are the most interesting person I’ve ever known.
You never tried to stop me from doing what I loved. I guess you’d bring out the topic now and then, show your disapproval, but you would never prevent me from chasing after my dreams. I still remember you standing on the sidelines, your eyebrows scrunched up, a frown darkening your face as you’d watch me speed off into the distance. You really were a wreck, but you hid it well. And I know you were scared for me. It was endearing. That was when I realised three things about you-You cared for me, wanted me to be safe, but never held me back from my passion.
I loved how you tied your hair, braiding them tightly, unlike the other girls who let loose their locks all the time. That’s why when you finally did let your hair down on prom night, the guys couldn’t take their eyes off of you. You really looked like an angel from the skies that night. The way your midnight black eyes shone put the stars to shame that night. There was something about you that made me realize that I was a damn fool for not telling you the truth.
Then again, the fear crept in, and I started convincing myself that there was a lot to lose by telling you, namely our friendship. So I didn’t say what I wanted to, and spent the rest of prom night dancing with you, while you laughed that sweet, tinkling laugh, unaware of all the eyes on you. I think that is what makes you beautiful-The fact that you don’t know that you are. I could tell you a million times that you have the most angelic smile in the world that lights up everyone around you, but you would never listen. You would never accept that you are so much more than what you think you are. And you would never believe for a second what is the truth, that you are the best thing that’s ever been mine. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever chanced upon, inside out. You showed that on prom night, when you finally removed those gigantic glasses and dressed up in layers of pale blue satin that made you look ethereal. Prom night. I don’t think I could ever forget, because I was finally able to go out with the one girl I truly loved, but could never have-You.
When Mohan Sharma broke up with you, I told you that he was a jerk and acted like I was angry. I even promised that I would punch the weasel’s face, because I wanted to be your knight in shining armour. But I was smiling on the inside, because I could never stand the thought of another man with you. You’re mine. And I was about to tell you that when you cried in my arms that day, but I somehow stopped myself. Because three things about you-You were the nicest friend I ever knew, you were always there for me, and…You would never fall in love with your best friend.
The only reason why I moved from one girl to the next was because I was never satisfied with them. They were too fake. You must have thought I was a player, and hell, maybe I really was, but it wasn’t because I had commitment issues or anything like that. It was because I couldn’t have the person I really wanted, and couldn’t find her in anyone else either. I searched for someone like you, because I was too much of a coward to tell you that you were all I ever wanted. All those girls, well, they were beautiful…But they were not you. I tried to make you go away, to push you from my mind by being with them, but I never really succeeded. I hated how they’d all look at me and smile, because those smiles were never as beautiful as yours.
I was never really a shy person, and you know that more than anyone else. But I didn’t want to lose you by telling you how I felt. You were the only person who truly understood me, and I didn’t want you to go away. So I hid it. I hurt, but I hid it. Some say it is fearless to fall in love with your best friend, but I think it is even more fearless to tell them about it. Yes, I was a coward. I never told you. I tried to prove I was brave by winning trophies for bike stunts and racing, but I failed with you. That’s why I’m telling you now, and I hope I’m not too late.
Three things about me are all you need to know right now-I love you, I’ve always loved you, and I’ll never stop loving you.
I stood there like a statue, holding the letter close to my heart, my eyes shut tight as I prayed to God I wouldn’t fall. I thought about all the letters that were waiting to be sent, lying safely in my cupboard, and shuddered. If he was a coward, then I have no idea what I am. I held it tighter to myself, and cradled it in my arms, trying to block the flood of memories that bludgeoned me. I was wishing he’d be with me at the moment, to tell me in person, but that was never going to happen. He was right. It was too late.
Because I knew three things about him since yesterday that were embedded in my mind like the writings on a gravestone. Three things that I will never forget till the day I die. Three things that, no matter how hard I try, will always haunt me in my nightmares.
Three things about him….
He wrote me a love letter, went to a bike racing event immediately after that, and lost his life when his bike slipped on the first lap.